Letters & Opinion

St. Jude and the Art of the Con – Part 17: The Blind in the Lead

Image of David Prescod
By David Prescod

AS we noted two weeks ago, during his press conference of October 5, 2017, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet rejected the suggestion of a review of the Technical Audit by the Association of Professional Engineers of St. Lucia.

Instead, he chose to defend the expertise of the Audit consultant and, when referring to the Technical Audit, stated that “I am satisfied that the quality of the work that has been done was pretty phenomenal”, youtube.com/watch?v=7VT-oEzDv50, (1:37:45). Rather than seek the advice of professionals, our Prime Minister chose to make his own pronouncement that the Audit’s content was “pretty phenomenal”. Last week’s article, however, presented a differing view of that Audit.

During that same October 5, 2017 press conference, Prime Minister Chastanet also remarked that he was heartbroken because of people who had had X-ray imaging done not being able to have those images interpreted youtube.com/watch?v=7VT-oEzDv50 (52:12mins).

Sixteen months into his administration and obviously having neglected to properly staff the radiology department of Victoria Hospital, our Prime Minister now tells us how sad he is that St. Lucians do not have the benefit of proper radiological services. How sad.

When making that last statement, however, Prime Minister Chastanet spoke broadly — and I might therefore remind him — that full radiological services are available at Tapion Hospital, a ten-minute drive from Victoria Hospital; in downtown Castries, again about ten minutes’ drive from Victoria; and at Rodney Bay, about a half-hour’s drive from Victoria.

Prime Minister Chastanet’s statement on the unavailability of X-ray interpretation services in St. Lucia has, however, to be seen in the context of his continued disparagement of the quality of the reconstructed St. Jude Hospital, this as his government apparently pursues its objective of constructing a new hospital at Vieux Fort. But this Government’s penchant for denigrating the St. Jude Hospital reconstruction project has also had an unexpected effect, as it has allowed the truth to emerge.

And so, when Prime Minister Chastanet was making his disparaging remarks with respect to the ramp at St. Jude Hospital in that October 5 press conference: “I mean you saw upstairs where the operating lab (sic) is going to be, you saw the ramp for yourself; think of pushing up a gurney with all the equipment”, youtube.com/watch?v=7VT-oEzDv50, (1:39:56), we now know that that ramp is a relic of the old St. Jude, youtube.com/watch?v=_y8KWK3Fj9A, (00:12 to 00:18 mins).

With the reconstructed Surgical Wing, an elevator has been provided for patient use, and a lift has also been provided. This is confirmed by the building consultant’s handover report which is included in the leaked Audit Report. The handover report also confirms the inclusion of this equipment under contract SJHR-14, while the leaked Audit Report confirms that those works are 97% complete with payments for elevator/lift equipment and services amounting to some EC$642,000 reported at pages 102, 105, & 106. There is, therefore, no need for a gurney (a wheeled stretcher for patients) to be pushed up the old ramp.

And while Prime Minister Chastanet describes the corridors at St. Jude Hospital as being too narrow to wheel a gurney along accompanied by medical personnel, youtube.com/watch?v=7VT-oEzDv50, (1:40:07), for the Surgical Building, the leaked Audit Report confirms that: “The design for this building has large corridors and rooms (sic)”, (pg. 160). For the East Wing, where patients will be hospitalized, the Report states that: “The design for this building has adequately sized primary corridors” (pg. 158). The only area in which the leaked Audit Report is critical of the size of corridors is in the West Wing, an area that does not provide patient services (see last week’s article).

In my opinion, as they are not supported by the facts, those statements by Prime Minister Chastanet with respect to the ramp and corridors at St. Jude Hospital can only lead to one of three possible conclusions: Prime Minister Chastanet has himself not visited the reconstructed St. Jude Hospital, has not familiarized himself with the layout, and so does not know what he is talking about; he has been misinformed; or our Prime Minister is not immune to straying from the truth if it serves his purpose.

What was even more galling during that October 5, 2017 press conference, however, was the Prime Minister’s explanation for his delay in completing this hospital, with him stating that: “I have to say to you we’ve taken this time because every angle to potentially allow us to move in to the existing building is what we started off with (sic), and every time we think we’ve found a solution, we get another problem …” youtube.com/watch?v=7VT-oEzDv50 (1:35:10).

Fifteen months after halting the work on this hospital and commissioning a technical audit and eight months after receiving this Audit and paying EC$1 million for it, our Prime Minister has no difficulty in telling us that the Audit Report, which he has only just told us is “pretty phenomenal”, is so seriously defective that it did not identify the myriad of flaws in the hospital’s construction that he continues to find, and which continue to delay this hospital’s completion.

This Government obviously has no respect for us.

Next week, we look at the blame game.

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